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on the ground in berlin

By Jeffrey McDaniel

I just arrived in Berlin. I will be blogging from Germany for the next week. I am embarking on a three-city tour with three other American poets, Matthea Harvey, Kevin Young, and Christian Hawkey. We are doing readings to support an anthology that just came out in Germany and Austria, Schwerkraft, edited by Ron Winkler.
What has happened so far: got a late start leaving my house, massive traffic jam on the way to JFK, on one of those buses from Grand Central. Just made the plane, then we sat on the tarmac for three hours. Fun talking with Kevin and Matthea. 11 hours on the plane. No sleep for me. Lots of Earl Grey tea. Did edit my new poetry manuscript, The Endarkenment. I like editing on planes when everyone else is sleeping. No big problems with the person next to me over personal space or arm rest. Did drop a slice of pizza in JFK. Had eaten half while waiting to pay. It was soo good. Tried to play it off, but I was bummed. That is a hard thing to play off. We have a get together in a few hours with our hosts. Staying in the Hotel Bogota. My room is very dorm-like. Wondering if there is a Pablo Escobar suite. Having a hard time typing–keyboard is different–z and y are switched, plus I cut my fingernails too quickly and too short and have a very tender index finger on my right hand–that is a crucial finger for my primitive typing. Decided against taking a nap and am just trying to power through till tonight. In Prenzlauerberg now, one of the coolest neighborhoods anywhere. I love Berlin, was here last year with my wife, (she has a name: Christine Caballero). Tomorrow we go to Leipzig. Anyone want me to bring back some German pretzel bread?

Comments (17)

  • On June 19, 2007 at 7:31 am Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Hi Jeffrey:
    Before I continue, I just want to let you know that my students at Notre Dame, when I’ve taught, have always responded very positively to your work…
    I’d like to echo Rich Villar, who responded to your previous stateside post. You mention here that you are helping promote an anthology. Would you mind sharing with us here, who the other poets in the anthology are, and name of the anthology?
    There is something I wanted to comment on that you mentioned in your earlier post. At one point you share with us your experience in Buenos Aires and what sounded like a cool reading series. And then you mention other poets worth reading (Neruda, Vallejo, Parra and one I hadn’t heard of: Piznarik; I would add to that list of Latin American poets, Vicente Huidobro, the Chilean). Anyway, reason I bring this up is because I wonder if, in naming them, you meant to designate these writers as “Latino” poets, too? I mention this because in my conversations with other Latino poets in the US, this is an area that can get problematic. That is: there is sometimes this notion that “Latino poetry” is, in fact, these poets you named. What often happens is that, it’s the US-based (more often than not US-born) Latino poets who get rendered invisible when Latin American poets are assumed to be Latino poets (not the case in your post since you named a number). Those of us who have been in the trenches of this debtate (and I’ll name one because we’ve spoken at length about this and have had to contend with it: María Meléndez) would say that Latino poetry is American poetry, US-based and, for the most part, written in English (not Spanish). Now I say this last part as someone who is fully bilingual, majored in Spanish in college and lived in Spain for ten years; in other words, I don’t say this to disparage the language. But these assumptions that most Latino poetry is written in Spanish, in my view, results in keeping us as “Other” when in fact we’ve been “here” all long. The result is that you have classes with Latin American authors being taught, and well-intentioned non-Latino instructors thinking they are teaching Latino literature. A colleague of mine, upon arriving at a small liberal arts college, encountered an English professor whose “Latina” writer on her reading list was Isabelle Allende (in translation)—as opposed to Helena Maria Viramontes, or Sandra Cisneros, or Ana Castillo.
    Or the conversation I overheard at a dinner honoring students who had done a summer seminar on Chicana literature. It was between a Mexican American student who had written an essay on the representation of woman in Chicana fiction. She was explaining her topic to a non-Latino professor sitting at our table. Upon hearing her finish, the professor responded by saying, “Oh, you must know Borges’ work, then” My student politely responded that yes, she had read the Argentinian short story writer in English translation.

  • On June 20, 2007 at 12:48 am Tara Betts wrote:

    Curious about this anthology as well. Would definitely like to know which one it is and check it out. That’s some craziness about Allende and Borges. Good writers, but such factual inaccuracy. We have to be clear that there are clear cultural groups within larger groups. There are smaller ethnic groups among Europeans, Latino/as, Asians, Native Americans and in the African Diaspora. We would not mistake an Italian writer for a French or Irish writer, nor would we want to mistake a Guyanese writer for a Ghanaian or African American. There are big differences that couch the work in entirely different contexts. Then there are religious delineations and sexual orientations (especially in the current political climate and publishing interests) that impact content and how each voice is crafted.
    On a lighter note, too bad about the sore finger, and it always sucks to drop pizza and ice cream. I feel like this is almost an Eddie Murphy in “Delirious” moment when he sings childishly, “I got some ice cream, and you can’t have none…”

  • On June 20, 2007 at 6:35 pm Jeffrey wrote:

    Hello Francisco and Tara,
    Thanks for your comments.
    There are 20 poets in the anthology. I don’t know all of them off the top of my head. Some are Kevin Young, Matthea Harvey, Christian Hawkey, Major Jackson, Matt Cook, Jennifer Knox, Julianna Spahr, and Srikanth Reddy. There are 10 poets born in the 60’s and 10 born in the 70’s.
    *
    To clarify, I was not trying to designate those writers as Latino, though I appreciate your insights and looking back at my jumbled post, I can see how that could come across. I was posting a bunch of ideas that popped into my head after reading all the responses on Emily’s post. I thought the conversation had broadened to include writers from Latin America, as Tara mentioned the Tapscott anthology and Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and Claribel Alegria.
    I had never thought so specifically about what exactly makes someone a Latino poet; I appreciate your detailed comments. I don’t know where someone like Maria Negroni fits in. She publishes more in Argentina, but lives in New York. She has a book translated into English, but writes in Spanish.
    *
    The good news is: my fingernails have grown in.

  • On June 21, 2007 at 8:49 am Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Thanks for your comments, Jeffrey. My view is that, in the end, there is no overwhelming consensus on what makes someone a “Latino poet.”
    As far as the anthology you are promoting, the underlying question in my question, not suprisingly, is: Is there a single Latino or Latina poet in it? If I were a betting person, I would guess: no. But I will certainly stand corrected if my guess is wrong. The very extensive recent anthology published by Sarabande Books and edited by Cate Marvin and a co-editor whose name escapes me had about 70 or so contributors and one Latino poet: Richard Blanco. So about .01 %
    Do editors of these anthologies set out to intentionally exclude Latino and Latina poets. I doubt it. But it does point to a certain insularity or, perhaps, laziness in doing the leg work to discern a more accurate portrait of the new American poetry.

  • On June 21, 2007 at 4:43 pm Ron wrote:

    Here’s the list of the poets included: Craig Arnold, Matt Cook, Timothy Donnelly, Christopher Edgar, Nick Flynn, Arielle Greenberg, Matthea Harvey, Christian Hawkey, Christine Hume, Major Jackson, Jennifer L. Knox, Sarah Manguso, Jeffrey McDaniel, Srikanth Reddy, Tessa Rumsey, Spencer Short, Eleni Sikelianos, Juliana Spahr und Kevin Young.
    http://www.jungundjung.at/buch.php?id=80&idb=113

  • On June 22, 2007 at 3:38 am Jeffrey wrote:

    Hello Francisco,
    I am not sure about the ethnic backgrounds of everyone. Ron (the editor) has posted a list of all the contributors. It´s interesting that you mention Legitimate Dangers as that was a book I know Ron read as he was making his selections. (That may tie into how a momentum of inclusion or exclusion gets generated.)
    I can say that the German anthology is diverse aesthetically, including poets who dabbled in slam and deliver smart, talky poems (Matt Cook and Jennifer Knox) as well as someone like Julianna Spahr, who often is thought of experimental, (in the post-language poetry kind of way).
    I know Ron had a tight deadline and was not able to use every poet he would´ve liked. For instance, he would´ve loved to have included Terrance Hayes, but the existing translations were not in line with what he wanted. I think, because of the tight deadline, he grabbed poets that already had work translated into German.
    Perhaps Ron will add something later and talk a little about his selection process as he seems to have popped on here already. (That right there is kind of fascinating–poets in Germany reading the Harriet blog)

  • On June 22, 2007 at 11:28 pm Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Dear Jeffrey:
    Thank you for responding to my response. Yes, I saw that Ron posted his contributors, and I appreciate that he did (and no, there weren’t any recognizable Latino/a poets on it). But if Legitimate Dangers was one of his principal sources, that’s not surprising. The translation hurdle is certainly a formidable one.
    On one level, I empathize with the idea of having to make a deadline and so perhaps not being able to fulfill the vision one fully intends. In my case, for example, when I look back at the 25-author anthology I just edited. I now wish it included more “experimental” Latino/a poets. But many of these I didn’t learn about until after I made my selection.
    I would like to send Ron a free copy of THE WIND SHIFTS: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press, 2007). Ron, if you’re reading this, send me an address and I’ll pop it in the post to you.
    And congratulations on your anthology.

  • On June 23, 2007 at 4:53 am Jeffrey wrote:

    Hello Francisco,
    Congratulations on the anthology. Would it be possible for you to list the contributors?
    Here´s an unrelated question: I met a German poet two years ago, Nora Gommringer, who is part Bolivian. Is there a European equivalent to the term Latina? Maybe I should be asking Ron this question.

  • On June 23, 2007 at 10:49 pm Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Hi Jeffrey, glad to:
    Rosa Alcalá
    Francisco Aragón
    Naomi Ayala
    Richard Blanco
    Brenda Cárdenas
    Albino Carillo
    Steven Cordova
    Eduardo C. Corral
    David Dominguez
    John Olivares Espinoza
    Gina Franco
    Venessa Maria Engel-Fuentes
    Kevin A González
    David Hernández
    Scott Inguito
    Sheryl Luna
    Carl Marcum
    María Meléndez
    Carolina Monsivais
    Adela Najarro
    Urayoán Noel
    Deborah Parédez
    Emmy Pérez
    Paul Martínez Pompa
    Lidia Torres
    In the back of the book I have a “For Further Reading list of poets with a book, who were eligible for inclusion
    but who for various reason not to do with the quality of their work weren’t included. They are, in no particular order:
    Blas Manuel de Luna
    Miguel Murphy
    Blas Falconer
    Manuel Paul Lopez
    Sarah Cortez
    Ada Limón
    Ariel Robello
    Roberto Harrison
    Gabriel Gomez
    Cynthia Cruz
    Rigoberto González
    Tim Z. Hernández
    I made my selection in the summer of 2004, and my criteria was that no poet could have more than one book in print at that time, and the poets would be approximately 40 years old or younger.
    *
    As to your second question, here is my lay stab at an answer: The term “Latino and Latina” as I use it and understand it, is really a U.S. term. During the ten years that I lived in Spain, whenever there was a news story that referred to US “Latinos” or “Hispanics”, the term used there was almost always “Hisapno”, rarely “Latino.” The person you describe—half Bolivian. half German—in Spain would be called a “Latinaamerica”. They would not describe that person as “hispano/a” because they use that term to refer to someone who is in the US.
    I am not familiar with the German language, so I don’t know what term it would employ to refer to people in the US whose origins are hispanic. Ron would be a better person to ask of course.

  • On June 24, 2007 at 3:30 pm Ron wrote:

    Hi Francisco,
    nice to meet you here and to get in touch with your anthology. One of the reasons for selecting the poets as I did it, was to show what’s happening on a kind of “surface”. Though it is absolutely part of US-american Culture, I focussed on the poetics I and the translators were interested in. A lot of poets on the same level and writing in similiar styles could have been included as well. I miss them a lot, and I try to get them known here using other possibilities(I published German translations of poems by Olena Kalytiak Davis and Denise Duhamel in magazins, and other poets are on my list). David Berman appeared in a Journal, translated by someone else. It could be a good idea to think about an anthology with a different orientation. Representing not just a wide range of voices but a variety of “Americanity”. As I guess there are quite recognizable poets with e.g. an Indian or Filipino background.
    In Germany we call in the first instance a male person from Latin America “Latino”. “Latina” isn’t as much used as “Latino”. Both words refer to someone who is “racy” and a good lover. So “Latino” is deemed to be the opposite of a “German”.
    I would say, we prefer to say about someone from Latin or South America: “He/ she is Mexican”, “a Bolivian” and so on. “hispanic” is used as an adjective, but primarily from literate people.
    I know Nora (E.) Gomringer, but I don’t know how much molecules of her body and mind are Bolivian. And I am not sure to say how I could fix her lineage either. Maybe that way: “I heard, Nora is just half German.” Or “of Bolivian origin”.

  • On June 25, 2007 at 1:19 am Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Hi Ron:
    Thank you for offering your thoughts on the subject. I will be sure to put a copy of THE WIND SHIFTS in the post to you by the end of this week.
    One of the arguments I make in the Introduction to my anthology (though even since its recently publication, I now feel I could have done a better job if I had known of the Latino/a poets I’ve encountered in the last year alone) is that there is rich aesthetic diversity within Latino poetry. There are poets whose aesthetics are informed by more traditional narrative, “plot-driven,” tendencies to poets who studied in Buffalo with Charles Bernstein et al and are working out of a more “innovative” or “experimental” sensibility. In fact, just on the heels of THE WIND SHIFTS, there is Chicano poet in Santa Fe, Gabriel Gomez [whose first book is due out in September, THE OUTER BANDS (University of Notre Dame Press) ], who is putting together an anthology of Latino/a poets who are primarily more experimental. From your perspective in Europe, you might be asking: why the need for all these Latino/a poets—if they are so aesthetically diverse—to be grouped inside the same volumes in the first place? The reason is banal: because
    they are being, for the most part, completely left out of most mainstream anthologies and, to an extent, most mainstream journals.
    Deliberate Dangers, where anthologies are concerned, was just the latest main example: again, one Latino poet in 70 or so. And the one Latino poet who was included is of Cuban background. So anyone reading Legitimate Dangers might possibly conclude: Mexican Americans, who make up the overwhelming majority of Latinos in the U.S., don’t write or publish poetry in the U.S.
    If you read the last four years’ worth of POETRY magazine, you would wrongly conclude the same thing, as well. Not a single Mexican American poet in nearly 48 issues.
    That’s what we’re contending with.

  • On June 25, 2007 at 3:19 pm Sheryl Luna wrote:

    This is an interesting conversation. I would like to add that one important thing for us to remember as U.S. Latino/a poets is that the work itself must come first. In a sense, ongoing discussions about Latino/as not getting enough attention with very little attention being to the work itself is problematic. Francisco has done a lot of work, but he tends to focus on connections more than strong work, and this in itself will not get Latino/a work anywhere in my opinion. We must support good work first and foremost. The new think-tank group El Labortorio out of Colorado hopes to put the focus on good strong writing first and foremost.

  • On June 27, 2007 at 10:18 pm Francisco Aragón wrote:

    August Kleinzahler, Robert Pinksy: 2 models
    Gina Franco, over at her pad, wrote something very useful that got me thinking about the current conversation that the above comment has generated in what I think is a new and useful light. First I’ll share her comment, and then how it relates to the title of this response, and then how it relates to the conversation at hand—and me.
    *
    “[…] It’s a collective interest rather than a mere interest in holding up the work of a few talented individuals […]”
    —Gina Franco
    *
    Twenty years after I first came into contact with them, AK and RP continue to hold sway in how I view the poetry world. They both embody models I have emulated and worked against, and I don’t mean their work (though they’ve both been models for that, too)
    I imagine (I know for sure in the case of one) that they both have very little use for each other’s work. And I would also be hard pressed to think of two poets who inhabit the poetry world in a more diametrically opposed way. And yet I learned an immense amount from them both and consider them both mentors. AK is a friend. RP is an acquaintance.
    RP, in a letter he wrote to me shortly after he made the move from UC Berkeley to Boston University in the late 80s, admitted that he loved interacting with graduate students whose only focus was reading and writing poetry. Such a notion would make AK puke. He has little use for the kind of mentoring that RP thrives on.
    In this sense, then, at the risk of trying to transpose Gina’s comment in a simplistic way, one might say that RP embodied more this notion of the “collective interest” while AK was very very picky about who he would give the time of day to and so be more inclined “to hold up the work of a few talented individuals”—if any. AK would be more inclined to try and talk a young poet OUT of pursuing the art.
    I have come to this conclusion about AK after knowing him for over twenty years and hours and hours of conversation and one-on-one basketball. And yet, I remember sitting on his sofa in the Haight in San Francisco in, oh, 1985 with a glass of wine and hearing him casually tell me that every single poem I’d mailed him was pretty much useless, but that if I “did my homework” and “took my vitamins” I might write a poem one day. Might. What ensued was the most indelible poetry apprenticeship I’ve experienced. I never had a workshop with him. I read his poems and would read his work in manuscript in Spain when he sent me new work. On trips home I’d trek over to his house for a visit and usually a game of one-on-one basketball at Corona Heights. In the meantime, I’d send him two or three poems a year, and he’d occasionally like one—in places. Then on one occasion, he liked one enough to pass on to Wendy Lesser at The Threepenny Review, which got rejected, of course. In short, he saw something in me worth encouraging, but in very deliberate doses. This wasn’t a free ride. And thanks to him I got to know the work, for example, of Basil Bunting, James Schuyler, Christopher Middleton, Charles Reznikoff, Hilda Morley, and John Tranter, among many others: in the winter of 1989, I house and cat sat for him while he was in New Jersey and so got to dip into his very idionsyncratic library.
    RP, on the other hand, was a more conventional mentor. I took a workshop with him, went to his office hours, read his books. I also sent him poems from Spain, and there were times that he’d have something very useful to say when AK had nothing to say. Pinksy introduced me to the work of Frank Bidart, CK Williams, the early Jorie Grahm, James McMichael, Louise Gluck, Alan Williamson, among others.
    And yet: neither RP nor AK shared an enthusiasm for Robert Duncan.
    For my love of Duncan I have Thom Gunn to thank—the third crucial mentor during my years in Berkeley.
    By now, the pattern should be clear: these three mentors were each providing different types of nourishment. Sometimes their mentoring overlapped. More often than not it didn’t.
    As the years went by, though, I began to notice a few things. I noticed that RP had what I’ll call his “chosen.” These were poets—male and female—who, for whatever reason, he chose to help in more substantial ways, ways that often led to publication. But here’s the thing: the poets he chose to support more fully were, in my view, a mixed bag. Some were very good indeed. Others, in my view, wrote and published work I didn’t think much of. In the beginning, when I didn’t know any better, I sort of looked upon this practice of RP’s with disdain.
    Here’s how AK set me straight:
    There was this one poet, an African American female, whose work AK didn’t like (“She’s awful”). I read a book by this poet to see for myself. Although I didn’t share AK’s view, I wasn’t enthusiastic about the work. A while later, this same poet won a General Electric Award for younger poets, which was a big deal. I was playing basketball with AK and made this very dismissive remark about the poet in question winning the GE award. AK surprised me by gently chastising my ungenerous remark and said something like, “Now now, the people on the jury committee felt differently.” I didn’t know it at the time, but he seemed to be implicitlyly saying: “Just because I don’t like someone’s work, that doesn’t mean other people won’t find something in it of value.”
    Important poetry lesson number 1:
    There is this thing called taste and subjectivity. What one person—August Kleinzahler, Robert Pinsky, me—may think as “strong” work, another poet—Thom Gunn, Robert Pinksy, me—may not. This comes with the territory.
    As the years passed and I continued to more or less observe how RP promoted (blurbed), perhaps even sat on juries or made phone calls (Many of his hosen got published with University of Chicago and/or won Whiting Awards), I began to see RP in a new light. His particular brand of generosity ceased to bother me. On the contrary: I began to view his generosity as a model I might emulate one day. I began to think this, knowing full well that AK would probably snicker at such a path, but not begrudge my decision to go my own way.
    In fact, I began to observe how AK, whenever I visited him, usually had nothing good to say about anyone’s work. And yet, he continued to encourage me. The years passed. I founded Momotombo Press in 2001 while at UC Davis. I came to Notre Dame to the Institute for Latino Studies and the rest, as they say, is history.
    But Gina’s comment made me realize that Robert Pinsky and August Kleinzahler had in fact been two possible role models if I were ever to be in a position to possibly help other poets. As I look back on the work I’ve done these last few years, it’s clear that—consciously or not—I guess perhaps I have emulated (on a much more modest scale of course) Robert Pinksy. And I decided not to emulate August Kleinzahler.
    Important poetry lesson number 2:
    Different strokes for different folks. It’s not in my nature to be like August Kleinzahler. Do I begrudge him for being something of a crank. Not at all. He’s writing and publishing great poetry and mentoring generations of poets with his work.
    Do I begrudge Robert Pinksy for promoting and helping a few poets whose work I don’t particularly like? Not at all. Poetry is too personal and too idiosyncratic and too vibrant and too various an art to think that a poet he has promoted must not be “good” or “strong” because I think so.
    Does this mean that I am going to champion a poet whose work I honestly believe has nothing to offer? Of course not. Does this mean that I admire with equal vigor all the poets whose work I want to support? Of course not. If there is one result of my years in Berkeley and the San Francisco/Bay Area, it is that my tastes in poetry are very ecclectic. Example: I love D.A. Powell’s work. I have two very close poet/friends who don’t. I’ve met D.A. Powell and invited him once to read at Notre Dame. When I read out in San Francisco a few years ago, he came to my reading and he, Scott Inguito and I went out for drinks afterwards.
    My two poet friends who don’t like his work would never equate that scenario with: “He tends to focus more on connections than strong work.” What does that mean, exactly, anyway? This is related to the vision I hold for Latino poetry which Gina, I think, articulates: that Latino poetry is rich and various and has a gradation of intensities. And within these gradations, people are going to have their preferences. This is part of being human, and it is part of engaging with art.
    How boring our poetry would be if we all had to only support the work that one individual deemed “good” or “strong”.
    I received an e-mail from a Latino/a poet who confided in me that he/she disliked a book by a poet on the list I posted yesterday. If that poet is reading this, I’d like that poet to consider writing a thoughtful review of this book outlining why he/she thinks it falls short.
    Finally, and with this I’ll close: I want to thank, honestly, the individual who made the comment that got this conversation going. The comment in question led to Gina’s comment, which led to this reflection—which has led me to reaffirm what I do and what I have done, among them: creating the Prize that resulted in this poet’s (the poet who posted the comment above) first book getting into print.

  • On June 28, 2007 at 11:27 am Mónica de la Torre wrote:

    I recently became aware of the ongoing discussion on what it means to be a Latino writer and have found it especially stimulating. I have to admit that I find it perplexing that those who look at table of contents keeping tabs on ethnic representation failed to noticed that my work is in fact included in “Legitimate Dangers,” the anthology to which a significant part of the discussion has been devoted. Perhaps I do not qualify as a Latina because I grew up and went to college in Mexico City and moved to the US when I was 23 years old. My mixed heritage—my mother is American, my father is Mexican—might defy narrow definitions of Latinohood and perhaps make me not a Mexican-American but an American-Mexican. I write both in Spanish and English and publish (different things) in both the US and Mexico. Having an American mother in Mexico never caused me to identify or be grouped as belonging to a different ethinicity. (An aside: the OED defines the term Latino as a Latin-American inhabitant of the US.)
    I don’t bring this up to self-promote myself, but rather to call attention to the complexities of representation of any kind (and especially ethnic) which will only deepen as more and more people cross national borders. Could I claim that the presence of my work in “Legitimate Dangers” was overlooked because I’m a Latin-American woman? I rather blame it on the reader’s shortcomings.

  • On June 28, 2007 at 2:13 pm Francisco Aragón wrote:

    Dear Mónica:
    Congratulations on TALK SHOWS. I wanted to go to the Chicago launch at the California Clipper but was travelling.
    Please accept my apologies for my careless oversight. It’s no excuse, but I was working from memory since my copy of LD was shipped (along with lots of other books) to DC recently.
    I view your work smack in the center of the most interesting work being done by Latino/a poets right now. I’ve commissioned TALK SHOWS to be reviewed for the inaugural issue of Latino Poetry Review. What is more, you may vaguely recall that about a year ago there was a loosely organized informal list-serve which I sort of started and to which I asked you to be a part of. Since then, the spirit behind it has been assumed by Gabriel Gomez, who’s editing an anthology of experimental Latino/a poets. Earlier on, I gave him your name and others.
    This was the list (not meant to be complete) I had in my head:
    Roberto Tejada
    Urayoán Noel
    Rosa Alcalá
    Scott Inguito
    María Meléndez
    Valerie Martínez
    Roberto Harrison
    Rodrigo Toscano
    Peter Ramos
    Edwin Torres
    Monica de la Torre
    Gabriel Gomez
    If anything, I’m an advocate of pushing the envelope on these questions of representation. I certainly hope you sent Gabriel work. I am very excited by his project. I think he’s calling it JUNTA. I hope we get to meet some time.

  • On June 28, 2007 at 11:20 pm Rich Villar wrote:

    Mónica:
    Glad to see you here, and sorry I did not get a chance to talk to you more over at the Poetry Project. I think we started touching on this identity subject a little bit at Acentos, and going forward it’s going to be an interesting discussion, for sure.
    In conversations like these, I tend to err on the side of including all Latin-American poets, regardless of their national origin, as Latino/Latina. At the risk of sounding just a tad imperialistic myself, I tend to think of Latino poetry as an inevitability: that is, as more and more Latin-Americans migrate northward, they bring with them their individual literatures and literary trajectories (including, it could be argued, Walt Whitman), and weave it, as it were, into the U.S. poetic tapestry. I guess where some poets part way is with the question of bilingualism, a phenomenon that baffles linguists, but militarizes knee-jerk liberal poets like me. I say it’s a new (to some) American aesthetic…and others would prefer we keep the discussion simple.
    Pues, I’m rambling. Would love to discuss this further in some manner of forum, maybe a panel discussion somewhere. Someone should get on the ball with that, no? (I can already hear the groans.)
    Paz,
    Rich.

  • On July 3, 2007 at 1:16 am Mónica de la Torre wrote:

    Hi Francisco, hi Rich:
    Thanks for your posts. I have been traveling the past few days and thus was unable to respond to them.
    I really appreciate your comments on my book, Francisco, and your assigning it to your students. The best way for me to participate in these discussions is via the poetry itself. I’m especially grateful to readers for giving the work the opportunity to open up the conversation and pluralize meanings instead of narrowing them down.
    Please don’t worry about the LD anthology issue. The fact that my work is included in it doesn’t invalidate your argument: it’s pretty clear that Latinos are not represented in that or many other books, for that matter. I tend to be suspicious of contexts where I could be cornered into playing a certain role, that of the “token Mexican” for instance. I much prefer acting as a cultural transmitter, helping bridge the gaps between communities that mutually misunderstand each other or have a longstanding suspicion of one another.
    Fortunately we’ll be able to discuss this further at the panel we’ll both be on at the next AWP conference. Let’s see what kind of debate takes place there. Perhaps it’s the beginning of a more permanent forum, to go back to Rich’s idea.
    That’s it for now.
    Be well and enjoy the 4th of July,
    Mónica


Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, June 18th, 2007 by Jeffrey McDaniel.